Librarian of Congress James H. Billington recently announced his annual selection of 25 motion pictures to be added to the National Film Registry. This group of titles brings the total number of films placed on the Registry to 325.
Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names 25 "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant motion pictures to the Registry. The list is designed to reflect the full breadth and diversity of America's film heritage, thus increasing public awareness of the richness of American cinema and the need for its preservation. As Dr. Billington said, "Our film heritage is America's living past. It celebrates the creativity and inventiveness of diverse communities and our nation as a whole. By preserving American films, we safeguard a significant element of our cultural history."
This year's selections span the 20th century from 1913 to 1988 and encompass films ranging from Hollywood classics to lesser-known, but still vital, works. Among films named this year: "All the King's Men," Robert Rossen's stunning political drama based on Robert Penn Warren's novel; "Cologne," a home movie doubling as an illuminating and fascinating social documentary of a 1930s Minnesota town; "House in the Middle," a not-to-be-missed, 1950s-era civil defense film showing that neatness and cleanliness equal survival in the nuclear age; "Jaws," the landmark horror film that created the phenomenon known as the "summer movie"; "Manhattan," Woody Allen's loving, bittersweet paean to the Big Apple and New Yorkers; "Marian Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial," a documentary record of the pivotal cultural event in which a major American artist turned a racial snub into an electrifying display of what America should mean; "Planet of the Apes," a brilliant allegory combining futuristic pulp science fiction with contempor- ary social commentary; "Stormy Weather," showcasing a once-in-a-lifetime cast of famed African American performers; and "The Tell-Tale Heart," a stylish Dali-esque adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe short story, fusing the UPA Studio's unique animation with James Mason's feverishly chilling narration.
The Librarian chose this year's titles after evaluating nearly a thousand titles nominated by the public and following intensive discussions, both with the distinguished members and alternates of his advisory body, the National Film Preservation Board, whom the Librarian consults both on Registry film selection and national film preservation policy, and the Library's own Motion Picture Division staff.
Dr. Billington noted that "the films we choose are not necessarily either the 'best' American films ever made or the most famous. But they are films that continue to have cultural, historical or aesthetic significance–and in many cases represent countless other films also deserving of recognition. The selection of a film, I stress, is not an endorsement of its ideology or content, but rather a recognition of the film's importance to American film and cultural history and to history in general.
"Taken together, the 325 films in the National Film Registry represent a stunning range of American filmmaking–including Hollywood features, documentaries, avant-garde and amateur productions, films of regional interest, ethnic, animated and short film subjects–all deserving recognition, preservation and access by future generations. As we begin this new millennium, the Registry stands among the finest summations of American cinema's wondrous first century," said Dr. Billington.
This key component of American cultural history, however, remains a legacy with much already lost or in peril. Dr. Billington added: "In spite of the heroic efforts of archives, the motion picture industry and others, America's film heritage, by any measure, is an endangered species. Fifty percent of the films produced before 1950 and at least 90 percent made before 1920 have disappeared forever. Sadly, our enthusiasm for watching films has proved far greater than our commitment to preserving them. And, ominously, more films are lost each year–through the ravages of nitrate deterioration, color-fading and the recently discovered 'vinegar syndrome,' which threatens the acetate-based [safety] film stock on which the vast majority of motion pictures, past and present, have been reproduced."
For each title named to the Registry, the Library of Congress works to ensure that the film is preserved for all time, either through the Library's massive motion picture preservation program at Dayton, Ohio, or through collaborative ventures with other archives, motion picture studios and independent filmmakers. The Library of Congress contains the largest collections of film and television in the world, from the earliest surviving copyrighted motion picture to the latest feature releases.
Films Selected to the National Film Registry – Library of Congress 2001
- "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948)
- "All That Jazz" (1979)
- "All the King's Men" (1949)
- "America, America" (1963)
- "Cologne: From the Diary of 'Ray and Esther'" (1939)
- "Evidence of the Film" (1913)
- "Hoosiers" (1986)
- "The House in the Middle" (1954)
- "It" (1927)
- "Jam Session" (1942)
- "Jaws" (1975)
- "Manhattan" (1979)
- "Marian Anderson: The Lincoln Memorial Concert" (1939)
- "Memphis Belle" (1944)
- "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" (1944)
- "Miss Lulu Bett" (1921)
- "National Lampoon's Animal House" (1978)
- "Planet of the Apes" (1968)
- "Rose Hobart" (1936)
- "Serene Velocity" (1970)
- "The Sound of Music" (1965)
- "Stormy Weather" (1943)
- "The Tell-Tale Heart" (1953)
- "The Thin Blue Line" (1988)
- "The Thing from Another World" (1951)
For more information, consult the National Film Preservation Board Web site: www.loc.gov/film.